I would like to preface this post by stating that I love America.  And with that, part of America’s proud democratic tradition stipulates that observation and perhaps a little criticism are a part of our patriotic heritage and expression of our deep love.

Perhaps I’ve been living on Planet Russia for too long, but now when I return to America, I am thinking “I don’t remember it being this way”.  Perhaps that is because I was never really an adult in America (insert joke about me never being an adult in Russia either).

But now since our kids are a little older (13, 12, 9, and 7), it is also fun to hear their observations, as they are now a bit more aware of their surroundings both here in Planet Russia and abroad (in America).

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I seriously can’t get enough of this picture.

No sooner did our plane wheels make contact with Planet America in late December, then our offspring began springing unexpected and curious questions.  Here are a few:

  1. Aren’t we supposed to clap when the plane lands?  This one was from our 12 year old.  He has grown up in a country where all air passengers are so relieved by the landing that they spontaneously burst into applause.  Actually, the plane always lands- we only applaud when it lands on a runway.  But whether it lands on the runway or not, we will get out of our seats and start pulling all of our stuff out of the overhead bin before the seat belt sign is turned off.
  2. Why aren’t there any fences between the properties?  This came with a follow up question:  How will they know where their property ends and the next one begins?  I didn’t bother to explain that that is because some folks have a plan to build a fence around the entire nation.
  3. Why are there so many flags everywhere?  This one was from our 9 year old.  He then went on to say:  “We live in Moscow, which is the capital of Russia, but there aren’t as many flags as there are here in Cuyahoga Falls… which is not the capital”.  I have to hand it to my young son for this astute observation:  Once you leave America and then come back, the number of flags and the national anthem at even inconsequential sporting events seems, well, just a bit spooky.  I’m pretty sure there is no other country in the free world that goes this overboard on external expression of patriotism.  You can read a few more of my thoughts on that matter here.  So, enjoy reading that.

Listening to our children’s observations was certainly an unexpected bonus to our New Year stay in what is our children’s favorite place in the world:  Ohio.

And I had a couple of observations of my own that were less humorous, and perhaps primarily based on what I saw on TV:

WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO SPEND OUR MONEY ON:  Based on the TV commercials, we are supposed to spend our money on education (also weddings and mortgages).  With that kind of relentless marketing, no wonder education is overpriced and college debt is perhaps one of the greatest issues that America is now facing.  I would probably most agree with Mike Rowe on that subject.

Or if you’re watching a sporting event, you learn that you should be spending your money on insurance and beer.  For if you possess these products in great measures, you will no longer be a slave to fear.  Which brings us to our next point.

FEAR:  America, really?  Since when did America become so afraid of everything?  Afraid of losing jobs.  Afraid of a Democrat or Republican becoming President.  Afraid of guns.  Afraid of not having guns.  Afraid of Russia.  Afraid of Mexico.  Afraid of Muslims.  Afraid of Christians.  Afraid of the economy.  Afraid of retirement.  Afraid of not retiring.

And I didn’t hear anyone in fear that they would never start a business.  America, really?

I know that a sense of danger always grabs our attention.  But if you keep buying fear, you can no longer expect to lead.

So how does America plan to find the remedy to all of this fear and once again be the beacon leading the free world?  Well, as it turns out, with a junior high debate competition.  Actually, I’m joking.  No junior high debate competition would allow the personal and juvenile attacks of a Presidential debate, they would be required to stick to the issues.  But now America has decided that leadership skill that will bring hope to the otherwise hopeless situation is best displayed by one’s ability to shoot out a well-timed zinger that will be splashed across the headlines the next day.

With that kind of filtering process, please do not be surprised if your next leader is a smart ass an impudent narcissist.  Talking and leading are not the same thing.  “He’s not afraid to say it” is perhaps not the primary quality you want from your nation’s leading representative and the ability to spew one’s opinion is not what will make America great again.

I guess I’m afraid too.  I’m afraid about why America is so afraid.  America, really?  I remember you had the answers.  The world looked to you for hope.  And I believe you can find it, but it will require a patriotism deeper than standing and waving a flag at a sporting event.  Because as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the early church in Rome, hope is birthed with suffering, character and perseverance.

I think we could say that, in other words, hope starts with a lot of work.  It might be worth considering the fact that the value you add to society with your work and the sacrifice you make for your family and loved ones always has and always will create more impact in the world than your vote.

At least that’s my view from over here on Planet Russia after a visit to my homeland.  I will crawl back under my rock now.  At least this house has a fence around it.  Guess that means there is nothing to be afraid of.

2 thoughts on “America, Really?

  1. As you may know, I’m from one of those tiny ex-British countries where we speak English, play cricket and rugby, and know how to use roundabouts. But we draw the line at drinking warm beer and eating offal. In either order.

    I’ve spent about three years in the USA, and so far ten months in Russia. Perhaps I can be considered a neutral observer.

    First, let’s get this out of the way. The US government and bureaucracy is preferable to the Russian one. Not in the crystal clear way it was in the days of Reagan and Gorbachev, it’s true. Now you need a microscope. Yes, the US Dept of Labor is a little bit easier to deal with that the Russian one. Yes, the DMV is possibly a bit easier to deal with that the Russian equivalent. The difference is bigger at the executive level, where the US president at least pretends to be embarrassed by illegal military actions that kill innocents and radicalise the survivors, while the Russian president doesn’t GaF. Russian elections may even be marginally less rigged than American ones, but they can afford that because any weirdo can get on the ballot in the US.

    Where I’ve been very impressed in Moscow (I can’t speak for all of Russia) is the private businesses. The restaurants and cafes are *all* great. Food is good, service is good, and except for a handful of places the prices are fine. My internet company is super cheap and very easy to deal with, and installed my 100 Mbps (symmetrical) connection in a flash — they came to install wiring next day if I remember, or maybe it was two days. Mobile phone service is cheap, fast, and reliable. My bank has a good web site, a lot of options (euro and dollar accounts as standard and easy transfers between them), and transactions happen fast. The ATMs give out cash in multiple currencies.

    Uber works better (and much cheaper) in Moscow than in the USA, for goodness sake!

    That clapping on every landing (not just hairy ones) is damn strange though.

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    1. Very good points. Might need to ask for a guest blog post? But you must embrace the clapping. I’ve found if there is a pause after the landing, I can initiate the applause. It’s a very satisfying feeling.)))

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